Urbanization, economic growth and industrialization has resulted in the rapid increase in volume of waste constituting a burgeoning problem for national and local governments.
Waste generation increases with population expansion and economic development. The volume of waste generated however does not actually constitute major environmental problems. In reality, what constitute major environmental problem is the inability of governments, individuals and waste disposal agencies to keep up with the task of proper and efficient management of waste. Improperly managed solid waste poses a risk to human health and the environment. Uncontrolled dumping and improper waste handling causes a variety of problems, including contaminating water, attracting insects and rodents, and increasing flooding due to blocked drainage canals or gullies. In addition, it may result in safety hazards from fires or explosions. Improper waste management also increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which contribute to climate change. This article looks at the relationship between waste management and climate change and will attempt to proffer recommendation particularly in the light on how an effective regulatory framework can greatly mitigate the potential for waste to increase impacts of climate change.
Waste basically refers to any solid material which is discarded by its owner, user or producer. Wastes are left-over arising from human, animal or plant activities that are normally discarded as useless and not having any consumer value to the person abandoning them (Oyedele, 2009). The Timaru District (New Zealand) Consolidated By-Law 2007 defined solid waste as “any material that is primarily not a liquid or gas that is unwanted and/or unvalued and is discarded or discharged by its owner”. Solid waste may include material that may potentially be reused, recycled and composted. According to scientist, the Earth’s atmosphere contains many types of gases, some which are known as “greenhouse gases”, this naturally occurring gases hold in the sun’s warmth and help regulate global temperatures. However, certain human activities such as burning fossil fuels and dumping and burning of waste, however, produce additional greenhouse gases and upset the natural balance by raising global temperatures.
More so, solid waste has been identified as a primary source of greenhouse gases (GHGs), not only by its relation to production and consumption, but also because of the production of methane (CH4) when disposed in dumps or even in landfills. Nevertheless, landfill remains the dominant waste disposal method. Further, a recent World Bank report on waste management and climate change co-authored by our moderator Perinaz Bhada-Tata estimates that current waste management methods, specifically emissions from landfill, account for almost five per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions and 12 per cent of the world’s emissions of methane (CO4), a greenhouse gas with an impact more than 20 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). This invariably sums up the variability to the impacts of climate change.
To be continued…
Ebere Akwuebu (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Programme Manager, Environmental Law Research Institute (ELRI)
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